Will chickens tear up my yard???

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by janenjay, Jan 30, 2011.

  1. janenjay

    janenjay New Egg

    Jan 30, 2011
    My wife and kids really want chickens. I think it would be fun as well, but I would want the chickens running around during the day, like they do at my brothers in Oregon. I really don't want our grass and planting beds destroyed though. What is enough free range space to prevent chickens from beating it up badly? We live in SF east bay suburbia, and have a landscaped fenced in yard that is about 75ft deep and 150ft wide. About a third is grass, a third is gardening/wine grapes, and a third is unstructured paths/planting beds.

    I figure I'd build a coop w/ auto door/water, and let the chickens out in the am, and close the door in the evening.
  2. ChooksChick

    ChooksChick BeakHouse's Mad Chicken Scientist

    Aug 17, 2008
    Larry, KS
    My Coop
    Yes. They will. It's best to plan for this and give them 2 runs so you can rotate them and let the areas recover.


    Take a look at my BYC page , as there are a gazillion articles there to help new folks out.

    Hope it helps, and holler at me if you have any questions!
  3. certifiedchef

    certifiedchef Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 27, 2010
    We got our hens last summer. I have 1/2 acre the girls can free range a couple hours a day, but that's all because the dog (choc lab) needs yard time too!
    As for damage, this I have not seen. They are get pest control, sure they scratch around a bit, but that is all. They are so much fun! Wish I would have done it sooner. Buying a coop is a good way to go, we built ours - wife's design, and of course after building within 3 months the prices of coops dropped by almost 50%. As for space; our coop (where the food and sleep is) is 4'x4' plus an external nest box. They roost inside. outside they have about 30sqft to mess around with and two exterior roosts. They have enough room, but sure are happy to get out. I am going to build an enclosure this summer that allows protected run space maybe 8x25 more feet. Hope this helps
    here's a pic of our coop
    this was before the nest box was added - note double arch openings
  4. Cacciatore

    Cacciatore Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 19, 2011
    San Pablo, CA
    Welcome neighbor [​IMG] We are in the East Bay as well, unincorporated San Pablo near Pinole. We have a lot about the size of yours and have 25 chickens at this time. They free range much of the time but I've had to set up areas that they can only get into when I want to allow them because they can tear up everything. My wife goes nuts because they tend to dig up her flowers, but the lawn area seems to fair quite well. We have a large fenced in garden that I keep them out of when we have young plantings and let them in when there isn't anything they can destroy.
  5. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens


    They will eat every blade of grass and every green living thing in your yard if you let them. (But they are adorable and will give you eggs and fertilizer- and eat bugs.)

    If you use the Balfour method as ChooksChick recommended, you can let the areas recover before even the grass roots die.

    You need to fence them out of whatever you wish to preserve. Most breeds can hop (fly) right on over 4 foot high fencing if they want unless you clip their wings. Six feet high might keep them in. Some breeds will be able to clear even 8 foot fences, like the Hamburgs, Campines, etc. But you can always clip wings (doesn't hurt them- just the feathers).

    Or you can do as I have done- and use 2 or 3 foot high fencing, but cover the whole area with bird netting (the kind used for blueberry bushes and fruit trees). This will also protect them from hawks and owls, but not from dogs and raccoons.

    The poo everywhere is another concern- they will poo on your walkways, porches, decks, etc. unless you fence them out.
  6. HEChicken

    HEChicken Overrun With Chickens

    Aug 12, 2009
    BuCo, KS
    My Coop
    I keep mine sort of the way you are describing. They have a coop that they sleep in at night - during the day they free-range the entire backyard. I live in suburbia on a fairly small plot. The backyard is probably 30x70 with a strip up each side of the house to the front fence that is another 15x20 or so. Guesstimates only on the sizes. The number in my flock is constantly changing but I am allowed a maximum of 12. The most I've had out there so far is 10. Having that amount of space, no, they have not torn up the yard. I still have grass in all of the same places I did before I got them. I will say that they have dug out dust bathing spots along the wall of the house so that doesn't look too attractive. But they haven't destroyed the grass. However the vegie garden is another matter. There is no way to keep them from enjoying it as much as we do, so we fence off the vegie garden to keep them out. After the first frost in the fall, I open up the gate and let them have at it. They spend the winter tilling and fertilizing the garden for me for Spring planting, at which time I shut it off again. So yes, it is doable. You do leave the hens open to predation when you free-range. A risk you and only you can decide to take, although it is wise to make it an educated decision based on the predators in your area. I have not lost any to the "usual" predators, but depending one what you have in your area, your experience may be different.

    I will say, lawns have never mattered that much to me. I don't see grass as being particularly useful, so can't see spending a fortune on fertilizer and watering, to maintain it. I used to have clover in my backyard but I guess the chooks really enjoyed it because there isn't any left. I am considering overseeding this Spring with some other grains - clover, perhaps some brome, maybe some millet. It will be an experiment to find out what they like. Anything will be more nutritious than the fescue, I'm sure. However to ensure it gets started without them eating the new shoots, I'm going to fence off a small area, start the seeds, and once they are established, take the temporary fence down and see how they like it.

    Editing to add a photo taken in early August. This is mid-summer of the second full year of keeping chickens in this yard. In the photo, my husband is sitting in a chair against the back wall of the yard and you can see the retaining wall and deck posts, so you can see how close the house is (to give you an idea of yard size). You can also see how much grass there is - and this is with them on it from dawn to dusk every day.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2011
  7. Wild Trapper

    Wild Trapper Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 1, 2011
    [​IMG] from Ohio
  8. oldchickenlady

    oldchickenlady Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 9, 2010
    Cabot, AR
    They will love the flower beds and the flowers! They will eat many flowers and dust bathe in the beds. They eat grass, too but wont eat up your whole yard unless you really go crazy with the number of chickens you get. How many are you planning on? If they are contained in a run they will eat all the greenery/grass that is in there...unless it is huge or you don't have many chickens. The wear and tear on your yard will be directly proportional to how many chickens you have.
  9. dawg53

    dawg53 Humble Premium Member

    Nov 27, 2008
    Jacksonville, Florida
    Welcome to BYC.
  10. Fred's Hens

    Fred's Hens Chicken Obsessed Premium Member

    Your lot is rather small, compared to "free ranging" space out on 100 acres somewhere.
    This also depends on how many you decided to keep. But the folks above have told you the truth. 6 chickens can deforest a lot that size in pretty short order. Grass, flowers, etc. They scratch, they dust bathe and dig some rather large areas to do it.

    In 4 months, there wouldn't be a square foot of that property that wasn't thoroughly manured. It is very hard to expect anyone to clear up poop by poop after them. A dog pretty much goes once or twice a day and that's it. Chickens who eat well, are pretty much pooping machines. Sidewalks, porches, walkways, it makes no different to them. Chickens will also roam up to 1/4 mile, as they get bored quickly with merely roaming "close to the coop". They can also fly right over 6 ft fences, if you don't clip their wings.

    I hope you understand we answer frankly, but not in a way that might discourage you from having chickens using a different method.

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